Vendetta Sports Media’s coverage of the 2021 AFL season continues with out team previews. Today we’ll take a look at the league’s Jekyll and Hyde team, the Melbourne Demons.

Melbourne’s home guernsey

After years as the whipping boys of the competition, the talented Demons have on occasion threatened to take the competition by storm since their resurgence in 2018, only to repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot.

2021 looms as key season for the club and for under pressure coach Simon Goodwin.

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Season 2020

9th: 9 wins, 8 losses, 107.8%

As their strong percentage suggests, when the Dees got it right in 2020, they got it very, very right. They too often got it wrong, though. Back-to-back late season losses to the Swans and Dockers effectively killed any chance the Demons had of making the finals.

Inconsistency, as it always seems to be with this group, did the Demons in. A team that could push eventual grand finalists Richmond and Geelong all the way (the Demons were desperately unlucky to lose to the Cats) also delivered some inexplicable efforts. Often the Demons changed personality within matches, best demonstrated in round two against Carlton, where the Demons led by 40 points before the Blues had even troubled the scorers, before slowing to a crawl and eventually eking out a most fortunate 54-53 win.

Skipper Max Gawn was again dominant in the ruck. When he was missing, the Demons struggled mightily. Christian Petracca excelled in a full time midfield role in 2020, coming third in the Brownlow Medal whilst still getting forward to kick goals. Both made the All Australian team. Steven May returned to full health in 2020, reasserting himself as one of the best backs in the competition.

Key Ins: Ben Brown (Kangaroos), Majak Daw (Kangaroos), Jake Bowey, Fraser Rosman, Bailey Laurie (all draft)

Key outs: Mitch Hannan (Bulldogs), Brayden Preuss (Giants), Harley Bennell (retired), Kyle Dunkley, Josh Wagner, Corey Wagner (released)

The Demons made a big splash in acquiring Kangaroos cult hero Big Ben Brown. After an injury plagued 2020, following three seasons at or near the top of the league’s goal kicking table, securing Brown at a minimal cost was a huge coup for Melbourne. Unfortunately, Brown’s knees appear to be stuck in 2020 as he is set to be sidelined by surgery for the first month of the season. That, as well as a stress fracture to young key forward Sam Weideman has led to the side also claiming Brown’s former understudy at North Melbourne, Majak Daw.

Mitch Hannan defection to the Bulldogs wasn’t at the time seen as a huge loss for the Demons, but his ability to kick goals will be sorely missed with the Demons now relying on the imposing but average Daw and long serving utility Tom McDonald, who far too often flatters to deceive. Youngster Luke Jackson was expected to step into the backup ruck position vacated by Preuss, whilst pinch hitting as a forward. He may have to shoulder a far larger goal kicking burden than anticipated. The Demons still have excellent mid sized forwards in Jake Melksham and Bayley Fritsch, but they alone can’t carry a finals bound forward line.

Defensively the Demons will be strong. May can shut down just about any key forward. Jake Lever looks back to his dominating best. Youngster Trent Rivers was impressive as a rookie in 2020. Tough as nails veteran Neville Jetta will want to bounce back from a sub par campaign, though, as will the counter attacking Michael Hibberd.

As it has been since their resurgence, the Demons midfield is their strength. Led by Gawn, Petracca and the dynamic Clayton Oliver, the Demons can out muscle, out run and out class any opposition midfield. Hard headed Jack Viney, defensive vice James Harmes, relentless wingers in Christian Salem and Ed Langdon – this Dees midfield has everything. Except consistency. The big three tend to pull their weight, but the Demons other midfielders are genuinely hit or miss.

Adam Tomlinson and Angus Brayshaw are two classy midfielders that endured terrible 2020 seasons. Both will need to dramatically improve if the Demons are to make the final eight in 2021.

Prediction: 9th

Making a call on where Melbourne finishes is a fools game. This is a side that, if their forwards return to the park and the midfield all fire on a regular basis, could give the top four a shake, as they did in 2018. They could also drop towards the lower reaches of the ladder, as they did in 2019.

With as many as 12 teams claiming a realistic chance of making the finals, a team as inconsistent as Melbourne just can’t be relied upon. That said, should they make the finals, they’re talented enough to claim a scalp or two. They just have to make it first.